Thermopylae: The True Story Of The 300 Spartans

I have just read a good article about the Greek stand at the pass in Thermopylae, and how they sacrificed many lives to delay the Persian invasion. That happened in 480 BC, over 400 years before anyone had ever heard of The Romans.

Although glamourised in the film ‘300’, the bravery of the real men involved is quite staggering, even now in 2020.

https://www.discovermagazine.com/planet-earth/the-epic-battle-of-thermopylae-remains-one-of-the-most-stirring-defeats-of?utm_source=pocket-newtab-global-en-GB

An Alphabet Of Things I Don’t Like: D

Dentists.

Ever since I was first taken to a dentist as a child, the words ‘Open Wide’ have sent a chill down my spine. (Not a photo of me…)

In the early 1960s, the interior of the dental surgery looked like an execution chamber in an American prison.

Just look at that chamber of horrors! The Spanish Inquisition couldn’t do better! The drill is operated on a cable, and whirred so slowly as they drilled into your tooth, it made your jawbone ache. Most dentists were elderly men back then, and had a stern ‘chairside manner’ that did not involve putting their patients at ease.

It didn’t help that dental treatment was then free on the NHS, so we were supposed to be grateful for being tortured without anaesthetic. A filling was supposed to be tolerated without recourse to pain relief then. Not that I would have wanted the injection anyway. The glass syringes had reusable needles that looked as long as arrows.

And woe betide you needed to be put to sleep for treatment, as that involved ‘gas’, delivered through a big rubber mask strapped over your face. Even when you thought the worst was over, they would spray jets of freezing water onto your teeth that made your toes curl. Then you had to ‘Rinse!’ That meant drinking a glass of pink fluid that tasted like medicine, swirling it around in your mouth, and spitting into a shallow dish with a plughole at the bottom.

Dental health wasn’t that good then, to be honest. We ate too many sugary and starchy foods, and generally only brushed our teeth once a day. Added to that, my dad favoured abrasive ‘tooth-powder’ over toothpaste, and we were ignorant of the fact that it was damaging the enamel on our teeth.

Fast forward fifty years, and my current dentist has premises that look more like a nice hotel room with a designer armchair.

It helps that I have to pay now. I can still get a portion of free treatment on the NHS if I claim it, but I don’t bother. The staff treat me like a ‘customer’, and the friendly young Spanish dentist sits chatting before picking up any implements. He doesn’t even say “Open wide” any more.

But I still hate it.

An Alphabet Of Things I Like: S

Salt isn’t good for you, so they say. It causes all sorts of medical problems, including the exacerbation of Hypertension.

But I like the taste of salt, and it has its place in history too. Right back to records of Roman times, we are told the importance of salt to that empire.

It was also used to preserve meat on long sea voyages, and to make it edible when it had been kept for too long in hot climates. Some foods benefit greatly from the addition of salt, to improve an otherwise bland taste. I like crisps (chips) that are salted, and I put salt on chips (French fries) to make them taste better. If I spend any length of time eating food that has no salt added, I can feel an actual craving for the taste.

We need some salt in our diet, that is a fact. But we also add far too much to what we eat in general, another fact.

These days, I no longer use the refined, powdery salt of my youth. I prefer sea salt, bought as crystals.

I like to rub this into the skin of any meat I am cooking, along with some black pepper. I also add it to the water before boiling most vegetables, especially potatoes. I could not imagine eating cucumber and tomatoes without adding some salt to them,

Bad for me or not, I just enjoy the taste.

Welcome, Burundi

Flag of Burundi. Vector illustration. World flag

I have had 38 views of my blog today, from the country of Burundi. I know the name of course, but very little about the country.

Here is a map showing where it is on that vast continent.

Some countries just tend to get overlooked. If there is no war, no catastrophic disease, and no contentious political issues, they are easily tuned out of our consciousness.
In my case, that has surely happened to Burundi.

I looked up a few snippets of information about the country.

The Twa, Hutu and Tutsi peoples have lived in Burundi for at least 500 years. For more than 200 of those years, Burundi was an independent kingdom, until the beginning of the 20th century, when Germany colonised the region. After the First World War and Germany’s defeat, it ceded the territory to Belgium

Burundi remains primarily a rural society, with just 13.4% of the population living in urban areas in 2019.

One of the smallest countries in Africa, Burundi’s land is used mostly for subsistence agricultural and grazing, which has led to deforestation, soil erosion and habitat loss. As of 2005 the country was almost completely deforested, with less than 6% of its land covered by trees and over half of that being commercial plantations. In addition to poverty, Burundians often have to deal with corruption, weak infrastructure, poor access to health and education services, and hunger. Burundi is densely populated and many young people emigrate in search of opportunities elsewhere. The World Happiness Report 2018 ranked Burundi as the world’s least happy nation with a rank of 156.

Sadly, it doesn’t sound like the greatest place to live, far from it. But it is now back on my radar, thanks to blogging, and a resident who viewed my blog today.

A Short History Of British Coinage

Here is something for you to watch and digest while I am away. My friend Antony sent me this 10-minute You Tube film that gives an easy to understand history of British currency since the time of Queen Victoria, to the modern day. It covers the change to decimal currency in 1971, and explains very clearly why all our coins are the size, shape, and colour they are.

If you are writing historical fiction, you may well find this to be a valuable resource.

And it also explains why I still use terms like ‘A quid’, ‘Ten bob’, and ‘Three half-crowns’.

And if you ever intend to visit Britain as a tourist, it will help you understand the coins in your pocket.

Something About Stones…

I watched a lady throw a stone into the river this morning. It was to make her dog swim for it, but of course the small dog had no idea it was a stone that had sunk to the bottom before it had got there.

I have often wondered about stones. How long have they been there? Had that stone she threw always been there? Waiting for someone to pick it up and throw it, or put it to some other use. Stones were there before humans of course, and without scientific testing, their age remains a mystery.

(All photos can be enlarged by clicking on them)

These are flint pebbles, collected and shaped by hand to be used in the buiding of a barn on a nearby deserted farm. Flint was one of the earliest stones used by humans to make tools. Everything from a scraper to use on animal skins, to weapons of warfare in ancient times. They also used it to strike sparks to make fire. I stood wondering if any of those flints had been used at a time before history was written down, imagining a cave-man trying to crack one open to create a sharp edge.

Here are some stones used in the construction of a Norman chapel in the village of North Elmham. I took this photo wondering if they had been quarried for the purpose, or just picked up from the ground and fashioned into the right shape required. How long had they been there before the stonemasons used them?

A pebble beach at Pevensey Bay, on the south coast of England. This is the actual spot where William The Conqueror landed with his Norman Army, in 1066. I stood on that beach imagining the feet of Norman soldiers touching the same pebbles centuries before, and wondering if they could indeed be the same stones that have endured through time.

This is the sort of thing I think about when I am alone with my camera.

Charles Dickens: Geographical Connections

Regular readers will know that I am a great fan of the writing of Charles Dickens. The Victorian author was a master at portraying characters, and telling the stories of the unfortunates of the era. This article gives an insight into his own background and personal life, up until the time of his death. It connects him and his writing to sites in and around London too, some of which can still be seen today.

9 Sites on the River Thames That Tell the Story of Charles Dickens

Sandwich: Finishing my crusts

The last of the four posts about the historic town of Sandwich, from 2015. The photos do benefit from enlarging them, as you can see fine detail. This reblog may be of interest to my more recent followers.

beetleypete

After my last three posts about this town in Kent, I thought I had more or less played it out. However, I have now decided to add the final photos, those omitted from the previous posts, for reasons of space, or interest. These will be the last ones, I promise.

Three rooftops. This shows the metal cupola of St Peter’s Church. Taken from a distance, it also shows the distinctive styles of rooftops in the town. One tiled, one made from stones, and the metal church roof. Like all the other photos that day, it would have looked so much better, had the weather been a little nicer.

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This circular room above what is now a gift shop looked suitably nautical. I wondered what it might look like inside.

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Holy Ghost Alley looks very much like the sort of alley where you might well encounter a ghost.

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This house dates…

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Sandwich: The last nibble

The third part of this photo post about the historic Kent town, from 2015. Despite the title, and what it says in the text, I did post a fourth one, and that will be up tomorrow. This is for new followers who haven’t seen it before.

The photos look a bit better when enlarged.

beetleypete

This is the last selection of photos from our trip to this lovely old town. On this occasion, I have included three photos of more modern buildings in the town. Given the great age of most of the houses and public buildings there, the term ‘modern, is used advisedly.

From 1916 until 1928, The East Kent Road Car Company operated buses in and around the town. They provided a service to the nearby city of Canterbury, and to coastal towns such as Ramsgate, and Deal. This quaint little building served as both the ticket office, and public waiting room, and has been left in its original place, though somewhat abandoned to nature.

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The wonderful Art Deco edifice of the Empire Cinema has stood since 1937. At night, it is still illuminated by the original green neon strip-lights outside. The cinema continues to operate to this day, showing mainstream films, as…

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Sandwich: The second half

The second reblogged photo post featuring this town in Kent, from 2015. Many of you saw these at the time, but they may interest more recent followers. It continued to be dull weather all day there, so it is probably worth enlarging the photos to get a better effect. (This can be done on the original post)

beetleypete

Continuing from the previous post, here are three more shots from that day trip. Some of the oldest buildings in the town, and a view from the bridge along the quay, which now serves as a car park.

St Peter’s Street, with its lovingly-preserved mixture of houses, from Tudor to Georgian.

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St Peter’s Church, in the heart of the town. It dates from the 13th century, and has a famous crypt, once used as a charnel house and ossuary. There is also the distinctive metal cupola below the spire. It is hard to see from this angle, but if you enlarge the photo, it is visible. I wanted to go inside, but a large tour group had just arrived, for a pre-arranged visit.

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Standing on the new bridge that replaced the ancient toll bridge, this was shot looking east along the river, toward the sea.

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In the next and last…

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